I don't know if you heard, but Compass Bible Church in Orange County made the news recently in a special way. They produced a 30-second trailer to run in a local theater. They wanted to advertise upcoming Easter services and paid the theater's management $5,000 to show the ad before coming attractions. Much to their surprise, the corporation informed them that the spots couldn't run. Told them that the piece was too controversial. Why? Because it mentioned the name of Jesus!
Really? The church was told that people might be offended at the name of Jesus. Imagine that! I bet they didn't fret about being offensive as they raked in money with movies like "The Passion of the Christ." And you know that if certain other groups were denied advertising if they wanted to promote a spot involving their religion's founder, there would be public uproar and cries of discrimination. And come to think of it, most theaters give no thought to showing material that a great many of us find offensive. C'mon, really?
Some are crying foul on behalf of the church, calling the action prejudicial and unfair. And I think they're right. Some are calling for letters to be written and boycotts to be executed. And I think they should act according to their convictions. But you know what I really think, deep within my heart? That we ought to expect this kind of response. Really. I think we've fooled ourselves into believing that our faith could peacefully co-exist with the attitudes and feelings of the world, assuming that we could live side-by-side with those whose values are (supposed to be) diametrically opposed to ours. We've thought this so long that we've allowed a spirit of détente to infiltrate our own lifestyles, hoping that we all might just get along. But really?
Then something happens to jar us out of our little bubble, a reminder that we're actually living in hostile territory and serving a kingdom designed to be at odds with our very culture. Someone takes exception to us and we're taken aback. How dare they? Don't they know who we are? Sure they do. They absolutely do and that's why they take exception.
What did we expect? Didn't Jesus tell us that if they hated him, they would hate us as well? That he came not to bring peace, but a sword? And Paul says in 2 Corinthians that we're the aroma of life to some and the stench of death to others. So why do we keep trying to cozy up to those who are repelled by the person to whom we claim to pledge our allegiance? Are we trying to have the best of both worlds without really choosing sides?
It's time, past time, to live what we believe and understand that there's going to be pushback. Peter reminds us to not be surprised at the fiery trials we encounter, as if they were something strange. Expect them. Live with a distinctiveness (don't just be weird) that stands out and causes people to choose sides. Decide that you'll never let yourself be squeezed into this world's mold. And if people find you offensive because of the name you wear, well, you can take that as a compliment.